Heat guard Josh Richardson will miss the rest of the regular season because of a groin injury he suffered Wednesday night, despite an MRI exam showing no structural damage, ESPN.com reported Thursday, citing unidentified sources.
His absence — projected at two weeks, with only a week to go in the regular season — puts a large hole in the Heat’s offense and is a blow to Miami’s chances of qualifying for the playoffs as the regular season winds down.
Richardson, 25, has been described as one of the Heat’s shining lights this year as he leads the team in scoring with a career-best 16.6 points per game while also averaging 4.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds.
The fourth-year pro left Wednesday’s 112-102 loss to the Celtics with eight minutes to play in the third quarter and didn’t return after falling awkwardly while trying to block a layup by Kyrie Irving. He finished with just seven points in 16 minutes.
“I was obviously concerned when he left the game,” veteran teammate Dwyane Wade said afterward (via the Miami Herald ). “At first you just thought maybe he got hit the wrong way. But the way he left the game, you knew it wasn’t. So we’re definitely concerned about him. This time of the year is a bad time for injuries.”
The scoring onus could fall on Wade, who is facing the end of his career if the team doesn’t make the playoffs. He’s averaging 14.5 points per game, same as Goran Dragic, behind only Richardson.
Fellow guards Dion Waiters, Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington could see their minutes increase, too.
Wednesday’s loss to Boston, along with a Magic win and losses by the Pistons and Nets, dropped the Heat (38-40) from eighth to ninth in the Eastern Conference.
Entering Thursday’s play, Miami is a half-game behind the eighth-place Magic and seventh-place Nets and a game back of the Pistons. The Herald noted just how tight things are in the East: While the loss to the Celtics dropped the Heat to ninth and outside the playoff picture, a win would’ve pushed Miami all the way up to sixth in the conference.
Still a week of basketball left.#HEATPlayoffPush pic.twitter.com/DJrgz1fNnf
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) April 4, 2019
The Heat have four games to play, starting with a two-game trip beginning Friday against the Timberwolves. After Sunday’s game at Toronto, Miami closes with a home game Tuesday against the 76ers and a road game to close the season at Brooklyn.
“Obviously, we always say one-game-at-a-time mentality. But it’s a tight race,” Justise Winslow said. “We’re watching other teams, and they’re watching us. But we can only control what we can control.”